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Canned Heat to perform at Adriatic Aug. 31

August 29, 2012

Canned Heat are (from left) Larry Taylor, Fito de la Parra, Harvey Mandel and Dale Spalding. (Photo courtesy of cannedheatmusic.com)

Staff Report

Rock fans can expect a hot time at the Adriatic Café, starting at 9:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 31. That’s when the sizzling band Canned Heat will rev things up for the audience at 327 W. Jefferson St.; $20 will get you admittance to the show.

Canned Heat rose to fame because their knowledge and love of blues music was both wide and deep. Emerging in1966, Canned Heat was founded by blues historians and record collectors Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Bob “The Bear” Hite. The band name was inspired by the household cooking product Sterno. The group specialized in updating obscure old blues recordings, and using this bold approach, the band attained two worldwide hits, “On The Road Again” in 1968 and “Going Up The Country” in 1969.

Canned Heat broke onto the international scene and secured their place in rock and roll history with their performances at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and the headlining slot at the original Woodstock Festival in 1969. Alan Wilson was already known for his distinctive harmonica work when he accompanied veteran bluesman Son House on his rediscovery album, Father of the Delta Blues. Hite got the idea for the name Canned Heat from a 1928 recording by Tommy Johnson. They were joined by Henry “The Sunflower” Vestine, and in 1967, Larry “The Mole” Taylor on bass.

Their unique blend of modern electric blues, rock and boogie has earned them a loyal following and influenced many aspiring guitarists and bands during the past four decades. Their Top-40 country-blues-rock songs, “On The Road Again,” ”Let’s Work Together” and “Going Up The Country” became rock anthems throughout the world; the latter became the unofficial theme song for the film Woodstock. Their cover version of “Let’s Work Together” became their biggest hit as it rose to No. 1 in 31 different countries.

Much of Canned Heat’s legacy stems from these three classic, early recordings, featuring two unique talents, both of whom died young: Alan Wilson, a gifted slide guitarist, harmonica player, songwriter and vocalist; and Bob Hite, a blues shouter whose massive physique earned him the nickname “The Bear.”

Bob Hite was born into a musical family in Torrance, Calif. His mother was a singer, and his father had played in a dance band in Pennsylvania. Young Bob grew up collecting old jukebox records, and managed to amass a remarkable collection by his teen-age years.

Alan Wilson grew up in Boston, where he became a music major at Boston University and a frequent player at the Cambridge coffeehouse folk-blues circuit. He also wrote two lengthy, analytical articles about bluesmen Robert Pete Williams and Son House for Broadside of Boston, a Massachusetts music paper.

Later on, this group made connections with Mike Perlowin and John Fahey, who also joined the band. The initial configuration was composed of Perlowin on lead guitar, Wilson on bottleneck guitar, Hite on vocals, Stu Brotman on bass and Keith Sawyer on drums. Perlowin and Sawyer dropped out within a few days of the rehearsal, so guitarist Kenny Edwards stepped in to replace Perlowin, and Ron Holmes agreed to sit in on drums until they could find a permanent drummer. They soon realized three guitars were overkill, so they let Edwards go. About the same time, Frank Cook came in to replace Holmes as their permanent drummer.

Before their first album, Canned Heat, which Liberty released, the band appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival June 17, 1967. Downbeat magazine praised their performance in an article in the Aug. 10 issue. Recordings of the festival resulted in their spirited rendition of “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” being captured in a film of the event, and a 1992 boxed CD set of the festival included some of their work. Canned Heat’s self-titled debut was released in July 1967, and following a one-week gig at the Ash Grove from Aug. 22-26, the band went on their first national tour.

They’ve had some problems along the way, including some jail time in Denver for marijuana possession, but they’ve kept on playing, and have since acquired a new drummer, Fito de la Parra, whose talent has been called “completely fantastic” by The Beat magazine. Their third album, Living the Blues, displayed the quintet at their most experimental. It was a nine-part sound collage and fusion of blues, raga, sitar music, honky-tonk, guitar distortion and other electronic effects, all under the experimental direction of manager/producer Skip Taylor. They even released a Christmas single, “The Chipmunk Song,” in the 1970s.

To catch up on their latest exploits, catch their act at the Adriatic this Friday, and be prepared for a swingin’ time! More details are also at www.cannedheatmusic.com.

From the Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2012, issue

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